Have you ever been prescribed a medication, but had to stop using it because the side effects weren’t worth the potential benefit it provided? Or, conversely, maybe you have tried a particular drug and found that it didn’t work for you whatsoever?
Sue Haglind explains that despite the best efforts of pharmaceutical companies to formulate products so that they are both effective for, and tolerated by, a wide margin of consumers, the fact of the matter is that different people will always react to drugs in different ways.
That’s where pharmacogenetics (PGX), also called DNA drug sensitivity testing, comes in. Pharmacogenetic testing is a method of genetic testing that helps determine how some individuals may react to specific pharmaceuticals. Sue Haglind, Executive Director at Genetic Health Rx, discusses the benefits in the following answers to some frequently asked questions.
How Does It Work?
The DNA sample collection process is a simple and pain-free procedure. During a medical appointment, the health care practitioner will swab the inside of a patient’s cheek to collect their DNA. The whole process takes just a few seconds. The sample is then sent to a pharmacogenetic testing lab, explains Sue Haglind.
The lab then analyzes the patient’s genes with regard to the pharmaceutical medication in question. The result, says Sue Haglind, is a truly personalized recommendation for dosage, warnings about specific side effects, and even an estimation of how effective the drug will be for that patient.
Who Can Benefit From this Testing? Sue Haglind explains.
Really, anyone. However, pharmacogenetic testing is especially recommended for older patients (age 65 or above); anyone who frequently suffers ADE (adverse drug events); those for whom medications are often ineffective, or who have a treatment-resistant condition; patients taking certain medications; and patients who have certain diseases and health issues, including chronic pain, diabetes, mental health conditions such as depression, thyroid disorder, COPD, enlarged prostate, and high blood pressure — and many more.
Which Drugs Are Able to Be Tested?
Sue Haglind explains that currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides information about over 250 pharmaceutical drugs with regard to genetic testing. However, it is also possible to use this testing to predict how a patient might react not just to pharmaceutical meds, but also to over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, vitamins, and nutraceuticals.
Will Insurance Cover the Testing?
It depends on the insurance plan, says Sue Haglind. As this technology is relatively new, many insurance carriers are beginning to cover these tests. Coverage varies by plan and provider, including Medicare, so check with your insurance company and/or your primary care physician to determine if pharmacogenetic testing is appropriate and accessible in your situation.
Insurance companies may, however, provide coverage in certain diagnostic situations. If the testing is deemed medically necessary to manage debilitating diseases, comorbid conditions, severe pain, or a history of adverse reactions, it could be approved.